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The name Japan conjures up in the mind images of castles and feudal lords and samurai... of ikebana and onsen.... The country is an intoxicating place.... a heady mix of the traditional and the modern... the Mecca of electronics. The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a mountainous archipelago in the North Pacific Ocean stretching for nearly 3000 kilometers from north to south offering a wide range of natural sights -- from drift ice to mangrove jungles, majestic volcanoes, breathtaking coastlines to vast forests, limestone pools and caves, underground waterfalls and streams that were formed millions of years ago. Beautiful nature and the country’s long history and traditional culture have blessed Japan with an incredible 19 world heritage sites of which 15 are cultural and 4 natural.

Almost 70% of Japan is covered by forest. With a greatly diversified plant life consisting of trees like pine, spruce, beech, oak, and maple and the endemic hinoki and sugo, the colour change of foliage from season to season imparts a spectacular beauty to the landscape. Foxes, wild boar, deer, the unusual tanuki, the Japanese serow and the macaque inhabit the woods. Animals from contrasting climates inhabit the islands- brightly colored tropical coral fish, dugong and black finless porpoise, beaked whales as well as arctic region animals such as the walrus

Steeped in tradition, Japan has a fascinating multifaceted culture that imparts a unique sensitivity to the people inculcating in them a deep appreciation of nature. This has made Japan a treasure-trove of performing arts and given birth to the amazing traditional arts of sado (tea ceremony) and ikebana. Performing arts such as noh, kabuki and bunraku (puppet theatre performed by three puppeteers) are recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. Japanese art includes a myriad of art styles such as sumi-e (ink painting), calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e paintings, kiri-e, kirigami, origami and manga (modern Japanese cartooning and comics). Folk dances are accompanied by hayashi music (ensemble of drums and flutes).

Masturis (traditional Japanese festivals) have a long history and are energetic and vibrant. Some very popular festivals are Awa Odori, Kanda Masturi, Yuki Masturi (Snow Festival), Nebuta Masturi, and Kishiwada Danjiri Masturi. In Japan food is an art form and even the simplest dishes are carefully prepared and meticulously presented. Fish is an integral part of the diet and can be eaten almost live, raw, grilled or deep fried. Sake (rice wine) is the national drink and is usually accompanied by otsumami (a light snack).

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